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Walmart Labs, Adchemy and the elusive customer search intent

Walmart labs acquired Adchemy a little over 3 years ago. Prior to its acquisition, the company had made some great strides in product search powered by a semantic search approach. The company designed an IntentGraph, a semantic graph contained millions of products along with their attributes and associated consumer intents.

The impact of such an approach is that advertisers can automate their product feed campaigns (in Google Shopping for example) to be organized by consumer shopping intent. Originally, Adchemy billed itself as an ad-technology company aiming to make keyword management scalable and efficient thanks to its service IntentMap.

Walmart has made plenty of great acquisitions over the years. Sure, the retail giant was late to the e-commerce party but with the creation of WalmartLabs, it’s catching up fast. Many of the e-commerce capabilities were built in-house so it’s very interesting to see the approach taken in terms of internal search engines and product feeds.

Billions of keywords are being bid on through Google Adwords. Keyword management can become a never ending quest for marketers, especially those working with e-commerce giants like Walmart or Amazon. It’s hard converting search intent into specific keywords that will convert.

What made Adchemy stand out at the time was that it created a layer sitting on top of the keywords that would let you managed intents instead of individual keywords. Focusing on search intent always made more sense from a human standpoint so that’s a big win.

Returning appropriate results for some subjective queries like “cheap healthy snacks” is difficult because it needs to be parsed. The adjective “cheap” denotes price sensitivity. But how do you define something like that in your own inventory? Adchemy resorts to using synonyms and to creating similar alternate combinations to help identify corresponding products.

Walmart’s internal search and Google Shopping campaigns may not be perfect but they are vastly improved in my opinion. A few years ago, in Canada, their ability to return appropriate products to my queries weren’t that great. Nowadays, I do a lot of my lazy shopping on their site because it’s getting easier to find what I need…and because I don’t have to drag my butt to the store through the snow in winter.